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Key battle: Can Ozil overcome Herrera hurdle?

Peter Smith, Sky Sports 3 May 2017
Ander Herrera and Mesut Ozil of Manchester United and Arsenal

Sky Sports' Peter Smith on whether Arsenal star can get past Man Utd's midfield maestro to improve form

After both dropping points in Matchweek 35 to lose ground in the race for the top four, Arsenal and Manchester United face off at Emirates Stadium on Sunday

The midfield battle between Mesut Ozil and Ander Herrera could be crucial, as Sky SportsPeter Smith observes.

Herrera is enjoying his best season at Man Utd.

Ander Herrera, Man Utd
Ander Herrera is Man Utd's top assist maker, tackler and interceptor this season

He is the club’s top assist-maker in the Premier League – his tally of six matching his previous two seasons combined – but it is his defensive work that has really caught the eye.

Playing in a protecting role in front of the defence he is also United’s top tackler (82) and interceptor (80).

Of all PL players he ranks 10th for tackles and fourth for interceptions, just one behind N’Golo Kante, of Chelsea.

Most tackles and interceptions 2016/17
Most tackles Most interceptions
Gueye  130 Koscielny 86
Kante 113 Davies 85
Pieters 102 Kante 81
Lowton 95 Herrera 80
Romeu 95 Monreal  78
Henderson 88 Reid  78
Milner 86 Kouyate 76
Drinkwater 83 Gueye 76
Clucas 83 Mee 72
Herrera  82 Otamendi 72

It is a different tale for Ozil.

Despite enjoying his best goalscoring campaign for the Gunners his creativity has dropped off.

Ozil's decline in creativity 
 Ozil 2015/16 2016/17
Assists 19 6
Key passes 146 75
Key passes/90mins 4.3 2.8

Although he made more passes than any other Arsenal player against Tottenham Hotspur last time out, only two of Ozil's 49 passes led to a shot from a team-mate.

This has only helped to highlight his recent dry spell against top-six teams.

Middlesbrough v Arsenal Mesut Ozil scores
Mezut Ozil's goal tally for Arsenal is higher this season but his assists have declined

In seven appearances versus those sides Ozil has scored one and set up another - a goal contribution every 315 minutes.

This contrasts to a contribution rate of one every 161 minutes against the remaining 14 sides – something he will be keen to improve on Sunday.

See: More on Ozil v the top six

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